City Desk

Metropolitan Police Department Admits People Can Film Cops

It's official, everybody: The First Amendment still exists. If you don't believe me, just ask Chief Cathy Lanier, whose Metropolitan Police Department issued a new general order (PDF) last week allowing people in public spaces to record and photograph police. Didn't that general order already come out in, say, 1789? No matter!

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) recognizes that members of the general public have a First Amendment right to video record, photograph, and/or audio record MPD members while MPD members are conducting official business or while acting in an official capacity in any public space, unless such recordings interfere with police activity.

Emphasis added. The order, which comes to us via the Legal TimesMichael Scarcella, reminds officers that they can't intimidate recording bystanders or ask them why they are filming, as long as they aren't obstructing police or in danger. Police are also forbidden from confiscating recording devices without a higher-up's approval. That's nice, but then you read sections like this and wonder what's going on in MPD that this kind of "reminder" is needed:

Members are reminded that photography, including videotaping, of places, buildings, structures and events are common and lawful activities in Washington, D.C.

Absent any more general orders on the Bill of Rights, can it be too long before MPD starts quartering troops in our homes?

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Guest

    Can police still brandish their weapons when people record them freaking out over snowballs?

  • James D

    This is relevant because a number of states have implemented laws banning people from taping police in public places due to wiretap laws.